Pioneer brings Android Auto to aftermarket car audio systems

With the introduction of Pioneer’s latest aftermarket car audio systems, Android users with Apple CarPlay envy now have access to the same kind of in-car phone integration that iOS fans enjoy—as long as they’re willing to spring for an aftermarket radio to get it.

That's because for now, at least—like Apple CarPlay—Android Auto has yet to make an appearance in a system from a mainstream automaker. The Android Auto website does list 28 carmakers set to roll the system out soon. (Android Auto is compatible only with Andoroid OS 5.0—aka Lollipop—or later.)

We just bought a Pioneer AVH-4100NEX ($700), one of the three new Pioneer Android Auto-compatible units, and installed it in our Volkswagen Jetta test car. This is the same car that got a CarPlay-ready Pioneer head unit last year.

The new unit is very similar and the same size as our old AVIC 5000NEX, which made for a plug-and-play installation since the Jetta has the matching faceplate and wiring harness. The easy installation ease limited our cost to the $700 we paid for the system. If you have to pay to have it installed in your car, add on $300 to $400.

The Pioneer AVH-4100NEX has made good early impressions. The system presents a look, feel, and menu structure Android phone users will recognize. And its large, 7-inch touch screen is much easier and safer to see and use on the road than a phone. Better still, the AVH-4100NEX uses Bluetooth and comprehensive voice controls to avoid using the screen altogether, yet still have access to your phone for navigation, music, phone calls, weather, reminders, and more. (And yes, it’s compatible with CarPlay, too.)

The AVH-4100NEX also includes and FM receiver and CD player, along with a USB port and audio input jacks.

We’ll be back with more news about Android Auto and our experiences soon.

—Jim Travers

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